BRITISH workers were last night feared to have developed furlough fever — a desire to stay safe at home while being paid 80 per cent of their wages.
The warning came as Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the Government’s bailout scheme until the end of October.
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It means the support — due to end next month — will last for a total of eight months at an estimated cost of £80billion.
Mr Sunak tweeted: “I won’t give up on the people who rely on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. We stood behind Britain's workers and businesses as we came into this crisis, and we will stand behind them as we come through the other side.”
But economic experts warned that some Brits were enjoying a “paid holiday” as bosses struggled to persuade employees to return.
All furloughed workers will continue to be paid 80 per cent of their wage up to a maximum of £2,500 a month for the time they are off work.
But from August, employers will have to pay a contribution to keep staff furloughed.
They will be allowed to bring staff back to work part-time — with the Government continuing to pay a portion of their wages.
Economic experts claimed waiting until August to make the scheme more flexible will keep businesses and employees addicted to government wage support.
So far, 7.5million workers have been furloughed by nearly a million companies.
Business bosses revealed they were already finding it difficult to persuade staff to return to work and said the “situation is getting worse” the longer the scheme runs.
Nicky Jolley, managing director of human resources firm HR2day, said: “There are some employees who have quite enjoyed weeks off with 80 per cent pay.
“And with beautiful weather, schools closed and perhaps a partner furloughed or having lost their job, there have been some requests to remain on the scheme.
'A PAID HOLIDAY'
“They have got a touch of ‘furlough fever’, enjoying what is, in essence, a paid holiday. Sadly, this is putting strain on businesses who need staff back.” Professor Len
Shackleton, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The Chancellor’s announcement will tend to keep businesses tied to government funding for longer than strictly necessary and delay readjustment to what is a greatly changed economy.
“The intention to make the Job Retention Scheme more flexible is welcome but waiting until August before asking businesses to begin sharing the cost of furloughing and encouraging employees to return to work at least part-time, means billions of pounds extra taxpayer spending.”
But Mr Sunak, who turned 40 on Tuesday, said he wanted to preserve as many people’s jobs as possible. He said: “We already know that many people have lost their jobs and it breaks my heart.”
Last night, he told the BBC: “This is an expensive scheme, and I've said that point before but I also believe it's absolutely the right thing to do.”
His move was welcomed by business groups and trade unions. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called it a “big relief for millions”.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated the scheme would eventually cost taxpayers £80billion.
But the public overwhelmingly backed the extension. A snap YouGov survey found 72 per cent for it and just ten per cent against.
Businesses that must stay shut — such as gyms, nightclubs, pubs and events companies — could get special treatment, Treasury insiders said on Tuesday. But details will not be revealed until later this month.
Mr Sunak left self-employed workers in the lurch after refusing to say how long a similar package will last for them.
On Wednesday, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme opens, allowing solo workers hit by the coronavirus lockdown to claim grants of up to £7,500.
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